Shipyard Subcommittee chairman, Maine delegates call for federal cuts in shipbuilding budget to be lifted


Reps Chellie Pingree (left-right), Joe Courtney, Jared Golden and Dirk Lesko, President of Bath Iron Works, speak after touring the BIW facilities Thursday. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT), chairman of the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Maritime Power and Projection Forces, said his subcommittee was working to restore the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, which was removed from President Biden’s defense budget proposal released last week.

“This budget is pulling some old large-scale fighters into retirement in large numbers,” Courtney said after touring the Bath Iron Works facilities with representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden on Thursday. “If we are selling older skill ships to free up money to invest in newer skill ships, you have to make sure you do the second part, and this budget doesn’t.”

Biden’s request for a military budget reduced the number of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers from the previously planned two to one.

The current multi-year contract between the Navy and shipyards, including Bath Iron Works, provides for two surface combat ships for the next financial year.

From left: Representatives Chellie Pingree, Jared Golden and Joe Courtney tour the BIW training and manufacturing facilities on Thursday. Photo courtesy David Hench

Courtney’s subcommittee is responsible for setting the shipbuilding manufacturing policy contained in the National Defense Authorization Act, which specifies how federal funds are to be used by the Department of Defense each year. Golden is the vice chairman of the subcommittee, alongside Courtney.

Pingree is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which defines the federal government’s funding policy, including for military shipbuilding.

In the coming weeks, Courtney said his subcommittee would begin the lengthy process of meeting with “the Household Bureau and Department of the Navy” to review their concerns.

“The good news is that within the first 48 hours of the budget being released, the Navy released its list of unfunded priorities – those are the things that went off the budget that they think should be added back – the main item on the list is restoring that Arleigh Burke, ”said Courtney. “That bodes well for this process.”

BIW is one of only two shipyards in the country to build Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, the other being Mississippi-based Huntington Ingalls.

Rep. Jared Golden speaks to a Bath Iron Works representative as he tours the shipyard Thursday.

“We are working on taking action against the budget proposal from the president who reduced this two-ship contract,” said Golden after a tour of the BIW training facility on Thursday. “It’s already under contract so this would be a break with what Congress hasn’t smiled about often. We will work to ensure that the workload remains the same here. “

Pingree and Golden, along with Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, opposed the ship cut in a joint statement May 27, arguing that the cut would “slow down the Navy’s efforts to reach its target fleet size of 355 ships, and would hinder our ability to confront ”. China’s military aggression and economic misconduct. “

The country would continue to operate 296 warships within the defense budget proposed by Biden.

Nationally, the Maine delegation wrote that the cut would “destabilize the industrial base of our shipyards, threaten the skilled workforce who build these ships, and undermine the long-term health of this important sector of national defense.

Pingree and Golden said that maintaining a shipyard’s workload was key to keeping the workforce going. BIW has been on a hiring course in recent years and hired almost 3,000 new employees in 2019 and 2020 and plans to hire at least 2,000 more this year.

“We want to make sure that growth, education and investment (at BIW) are not lost because there isn’t enough work,” said Pingree.

Each of BIW’s new shipbuilders takes between five and seven years to train and achieve maximum productivity, Golden said.

“You can’t just turn the tap off today and think you can turn it on tomorrow and have a skilled workforce of men and women like us at Bath Iron Works,” said Golden.

BIW President Dirk Lesko wrote in a March report that the approximately 7,300 BIW shipbuilders have an order backlog of eleven Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, six of which are under construction. BIW has produced over 30 Arleigh Burkes for the Navy, the youngest of which is the future USS Daniel Inouye, which was christened in 2019.

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